R&B singer R. Kelly was the king of his genre in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Chicago singer was considered grimier or more authentic than most crooners — a smooth voice with a rapper’s sensibility of the streets.
The songs were unvarnished tales of love and sex, delivered in a polished package of coolness or realness.
But behind the many smash hits Kelly had, there was a sinister side that began to seep into the public consciousness — slowly at first, and then with a force great enough to push him from the limelight.
First came the story that Kelly married fellow singer Aaliyah — his protege — when she was 15 years old.
Then came other stories — that he frequently groomed young teenage girls into sexual relationships, with the promise of fame.
Finally, there are the more recent developments — that R. Kelly keeps a cadre of young women against their will at his home, and prevents them from speaking with family or friends. Yet R. Kelly is a free man, who, for all intents and purposes, still has a career and a following of loyal fans. It’s a bizarre story, even by today’s standards.
Surviving R. Kelly tells this story from the vantage point of the singer’s accusers, as well as some of the people who know him best.
It is difficult, sometimes wrenching, television to watch. But it is also very hard to turn away from it. And it’s impossible to watch and not wonder a few things.
Should R. Kelly face more charges than he already has for sexual misconduct? If so, why haven’t prosecutors acted?
And just as big — how has he been able to maintain his popularity? Why haven’t fans universally turned against him?
dream hampton is the executive producer of Surviving R. Kelly. She’s a native Detroiter and longtime cultural critic. She joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about the series.
It premiered Thursday and continues Friday and Saturday night at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.
Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.